Tag: Books

  • To Speak the Truth in Bombingham

    To Speak the Truth in Bombingham

    John Archibald is almost my exact contemporary. Same age. White cis male. Southern. Methodist. A man who deals in words, though he’s an Alabama newspaperman who won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for his work in The Birmingham News while my main public output are sermons these days. What Archibald has done in his […]

  • Glorious Excess: S.A. Cosby and the Future of Southern Fiction

    Glorious Excess: S.A. Cosby and the Future of Southern Fiction

    S.A. Cosby knows that he’s prone to excess. He told The Guardian as much in an interview last year: “I write long sentences. I like similes (maybe too much, according to some reviewers). I like to write esoterically. I pontificate and wax poetic in the middle of gunfights. That’s my style.” –S.A. Cosby In his […]

  • How Memory Lingers: Clint Smith’s How the Word is Passed

    How Memory Lingers: Clint Smith’s How the Word is Passed

    The year my grandfather was born, twenty-one people were lynched and no one heard a sound. The trees died and the soil turned over and the leaves baptized all that was left behind. (273) The fact that Clint Smith is also a poet does not make his recent book an easy read. How the Word […]

  • The Audacity of Jonathan Franzen’s Crossroads

    The Audacity of Jonathan Franzen’s Crossroads

    It’s hard to know where to start when talking about Jonathan Franzen’s new novel, Crossroads. Do you start with the audacity? Franzen ripping across the page, delving into the minds of female and Native American characters with abandon and heedless of the caution so much of contemporary literature has fallen prey to? How about the […]

  • Annie Dillard’s Writing Life

    Annie Dillard’s Writing Life

    It’s hard for me to overstate how much of an influence Annie Dillard has been on me over the years. A short story about weasels in her essay collection Teaching a Stone to Talk is a big part of my call story. The one about a man pursuing her as a child through the snow […]

  • Burning Down the House of Fear with Brian Zahnd

    Burning Down the House of Fear with Brian Zahnd

    ‘Deconstruction’ is a popular term in conversations among church leaders these days. Only when deconstruction is invoked, we’re not talking French intellectual movements; it’s more to do with reassessing the received faith of our childhood and sorting out what resources are still there for life as an adult. In other words it’s what we used […]

  • #1 & a Recap:The Heartlands Best Reads of 2021

    #1 & a Recap:The Heartlands Best Reads of 2021

    George Saunders is our first time two-time recipient of the much-coveted Heartlands Best Reads award. Saunders’ Lincoln in the Bardo haunted and charmed back in 2017, but it was his master class on storytelling that captivated me this year. Saunders is a professor of creative writing at Syracuse University and he has influenced a generation […]

  • #2 — No Cure for Being Human by Kate Bowler — 2021 Best Reads

    #2 — No Cure for Being Human by Kate Bowler — 2021 Best Reads

    To read Kate Bowler in her latest book, No Cure for Being Human (And Other Truths I Need to Hear), is like hearing from the dead. As she did in her last book, Everything Happens for a Reason (And Other Lies I’ve Told), Bowler takes a blow torch to received pieties when intense suffering comes […]

  • #3 – My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson – 2021 Best Reads

    #3 – My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson – 2021 Best Reads

    Moving back to my old hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia in the summer of 2021, I was aware that a lot had changed since I left 16 years ago. No book chronicled and processed those changes better than the debut collection of stories by Charlottesville writer Jocelyn Nicole Johnson. My Monticello, particularly the included novella with […]

  • #4–Hunting Magic Eels by Richard Beck–2021 Best Reads

    #4–Hunting Magic Eels by Richard Beck–2021 Best Reads

    No book was better at giving voice to things I was feeling about our contemporary landscape than Richard Beck’s Hunting Magic Eels. The title was catchy, referring to an ancient Welsh pilgrimage site that featured prophetic eels who could predict the prospects of your love life. But the whole book worked a kind of magic. […]